Improving Great Barrier Reef water quality - $141 million program open for business

Media release

29 October 2019

Farmers and organisations working in the Mackay-Whitsunday and Fitzroy regions are invited to put forward their ideas for water quality improvement projects under the Australian Government’s Reef Trust Partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

I am pleased to join the Foundation and our Reef Envoy Warren Entsch in calling for project ideas to access funding of up to $42 million in the first two of seven Reef catchments identified by the Foundation as priorities for investment in water quality improvement.

This funding forms the first tranche of $141 million allocated by the Foundation for regionally focused on-ground water quality improvement actions such as agricultural practice change and landscape remediation projects. Expressions of Interest from potential delivery partners are being sought for cost-effective projects in the Plane Creek and Pioneer catchments in the Mackay-Whitsunday region, and the Lower Fitzroy and Mackenzie catchments in the Fitzroy region near Rockhampton.

Clean water is crucial if we are to protect the Reef for future generations, which is why the Government is investing a total of $201 million in improving water quality under the $443 million partnership with the Foundation.

Run-off of sediment, nutrients and pesticides into Reef catchments directly affects the health of inshore reefs and seagrass and also affects the Reef’s ability to withstand and recover from disturbances like cyclones and coral bleaching.  The recently released Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2019 states that water quality improvement at a regional scale is one of the most urgent actions to improve the long-term outlook for the Reef.

As the Foundation’s Managing Director Anna Marsden says, “The science is clear.  A healthy Reef needs clean water, which is why improving water quality from land-based run-off is so important to the health of our global icon.”

Many landholders are rising to this water quality challenge by changing their land management practices – and they are making a difference.  The recently released Reef Water Quality Report Card 2017 and 2018 showed encouraging improvements, but also that more work is needed to accelerate progress towards meeting the Reef 2050 targets for water quality.

This program builds on the over $19 million invested through the Reef Trust Partnership earlier this year into 11 projects that have a track record of improving water quality on the Great Barrier Reef.

Expressions of Interest for projects in the Plane Creek, Pioneer, Lower Fitzroy and Mackenzie catchments open today and will close on Friday 29 November 2019. People interested in the program can access the guidelines here.

In addition to these regional projects, the Foundation will soon open grants worth up to $10 million to explore innovative new approaches to improving water quality. People interested in this program are encouraged to register their interest to stay informed at www.barrierreef.org/contact/register-your-interest

Minister for the Environment